IS BUD LIGHT STILL THE REAL BREW OF GENIUS?
Because beer always makes you smarter.
The Bud Light Real Men Of Genius radio campaign went away in 2008 after 7 inspired years.
It was epic, it made the brand a market leader, and was parodied endlessly (and badly) in small-business, local-radio advertising.
Since then, But Light has not had such a juggernaut--but today, they may be on the brink.
This morning, I was confronted with a video of a town crier standing inside a craft brewery in Minneapolis. He was reading a "Hear ye! Hear ye!" to everyone in the place.
It was a cease & desist letter from Bud Light to the craft brewer.
So, I thought, "Hold my beer. Watch this. I'm going to find out more."
The story is interesting, and it's a useful brand advertising lesson--even for the small-business owner.
Have you heard that? Have you said it?
I hadn't until this morning. I haven't been watching a lot of commercial TV lately.
But it seems that Bud Light and their agency, Wieden + Kennedy, is drafting off of the zeitgeist. In this particular case, it's the mania around Game of Thrones.
They've done it with a commercial that shows a royal banquet room, and a line of subjects paying obeisance to the king. As people step up and offer sixes and cases of Bud Light to the king, the king raises his own Bud Light and proclaims each person, "A true friend of the crown! Dilly, dilly!"
And everyone in the banquet room responds by raising their own Bud Lights and crying, "Dilly, dilly!"
This happens a couple of times, and then another gentleman steps up and offers a large brown bottle, without a label, and sealed with red wax. He puts it in front of the king, who says, "What, um, what is that?"
"This is a spiced honey mead wine that I have really been into lately."
WHAT FOLLOWS IS A LONG, UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE
Then, the king says to the gent, "Please follow Sir Brad. He's going to give you a private tour of the Pit of Misery."
The hapless fellow is hauled off while everyone happily toasts, "To the misery! Dilly, dilly!"
The announcer chimes in over a shot of the Bud Light logo rendered in rice, barley, hops, and the head of a beer: "Here's to the friends you can always count on. Bud Light, brewed to be America's favorite light lager."
Oh, boy. Ya know what's going on here?
This is an attack ad.
Very funny. Really well produced.
But it's an attack ad.
IT'S TAPPING INTO THE GAME OF THRONES ZEITGEIST AND ATTACKING CRAFT BREWING
If you don't know, craft brewing has become HUGE.
It's huge enough that there are now three fundamental problems.
One, craft brewers are having a hard time competing with one another because there's so much competition and a limited market.
Two, consumers are suffering from FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. When they look at a wall of craft beers in the liquor store, they become anxious and don't know what to buy, fearing they may be missing something better than what they'll choose.
And three, craft brewers are eating into big brewers' market share.
And I've got to be honest, as a guy who's been a fan of craft beers since they began bubbling up in the 1990s, even I'm over it. There are plenty of great beers out there. But the preciousness and the overtness and the slam-you-in-the-face-ness of so many of these beers is out of hand.
AND YES, I'M THE GUY WHO LAST WEEK THREW LAURELS TO A NANO-BREWER
Mad Fritz, the Napa Valley nano-brewery, is a brilliant brand.
It's not precious. It's intelligent and arcane and balanced and specialized and scarce.
But so many craft brewers are so clever and working so hard for people who are so pretentious about their beer.
I get it. This is the pendulum swinging the other way after decades of mega-brewery domination.
So...where's the attack?
One, the subject presents a precious bottle of spiced mead (which, if you don't know, is a honey wine).
Two, he presents the bottle with the cliché qualifier, "That I've really been into lately."
And three, the announcer says, "Here's to the friends you can always count on. Bud Light, brewed to be America's favorite light lager."
A POX ON CRAFT BREW HEADS!
Long live the light lager!
Can you imagine any big brewer even five years ago using a line like, "America's favorite light lager."
They'd say, "Beer."
They'd use modifiers like, "light," or "crisp," or "refreshing."
They might say something unqualified like, "Beechwood aged!" (I once read an article by a reporter who called Budweiser to find out what "Beachwood aged" actually meant. The reply from the person at the other end was essentially, "Well, you know, beechwood. It's beechwood aged!")
Beer has been a commodity product.
AND NOW, COMMODITY THINKING IS BEING UNDERMINED BY ARTISAN THINKING
Regardless of how you feel about craft beer (I feel it's a good thing), it's not hard to see how this happened.
A landscape of fizzy yellow beers was infected by variety and flavor and choice and surprise.
Yes, craft beers are surprising. Not always in a good way. A top-fermented, dry-hopped ale that tastes of rosebuds, garlic and old gym socks may not be a good surprise.
Nonetheless, it has become a pervasive threat to the market dominance of brands like Bud Light, a brand whose core, die-hard fan is intolerant of things like craft beer. I know people like this. They are single-beer fanatics and they are angry at craft brewing.
Bud Light is shooting fish in a barrel--and being really funny.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TOWN CRIER?
Back to the brewery in Minneapolis.
The brewery is called Modist. Not sure how you pronounce it.
Modist very recently released a brew called, "Dilly Dilly Mosaic Double IPA."
Mosiac is a strain of hops. It is known for its complex and broad aromas backed by a clean bittering. If you care.
Modist put this brew in their taproom only. They did not release it widely.
They created a logo that said, "Dilly Dilly" in a blatant rip-off of the Bud Light swirl logo.
ON NOVEMBER 28, THEY ANNOUNCED IT ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE
They posted that they were releasing it on December 1.
The same day they released it, they posted a video of the town crier standing in their lobby, reading the cease & desist "proclamation" aloud.
The town crier's message included a request to make sure this ale was a one-time-only occurrence, and offers the brewery two free tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis.
They next day, Modist posted a picture of the town crier's scroll and the "Dilly Dilly" ripoff logo, with the message, "Come drink this beer before we rename it 'Coat Tails.'"
I smell a publicity stunt cooked up by Anheuser Busch, whose parent company is not known for being so kind with its C&Ds.
Nonetheless, it's fun, it's well-crafted, it bears retelling, it's good advertising, and a good stunt for the press.
WHAT'S THE TAKEAWAY FOR YOU?
One, no business of any size is too small for a publicity stunt. I've done it with a tiny business, getting them coverage in a major metropolitan daily. You need to be creative, relevant, and interesting.
Two, your business can be a threat to the bigger market leaders. You just need to understand how to be different and resonant and offer your core customer a better reality.
And three, never discount the value of making the prospect feel the right thing. "Here's to friends you can count on." That is a simple, unsophisticated, artless sentiment--and it's going to sell a lot more beer than it deserves. It's also part of the Famous Among Friends conceit that Bud Light has been using for over 30 years.
BUD LIGHT APPEARED AT MODIST WITH GREAT ALACRITY
The town crier was on the scene so quickly, and Modist was so on top of the situation, that it smacks of benign collusion.
And the fact that Bud Light is acknowledging Modist in this way (and likely partnering with them) demonstrates that they probably aren't as down on craft beer as their advertising might imply.
Instead, they could be preparing to invest in Modist, if not preparing to buy them outright.
Tell that to craft brewers Goose Island, Blue Point, Breckenridge, Golden Road, Four Peaks, 10 Barrel, Devils Backbone and Karbach--all of whom have been acquired by Anheuser Busch.
Your brand is also never too small to be acquired by a giant.
For a peek at "Dilly Dilly," Click here: https://youtu.be/D8Cb5Wk2t-8
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.